Migrate to a new site? Think about this!

Sooner or later, most companies will be set up for the inevitable migration project. Maybe it's a change of domain name, moving to a new server, or moving the site to a new CMS. Depending on the size of the website and the type of migration to perform, you are faced with slightly different challenges. Here we'll share some tips that can be useful to read through before it's time.

1. Plan

If you have a large website with a lot of content, a migration is a big project. So be sure to plan the migration properly, take the altitude because it will take time and make sure you have the expertise needed. If possible, try to plan the migration to a period when you have less traffic.

A tip is to rank the factors Time, Budget and Quality and give everyone different amount of weight in the project.

If you have a set date when the migration must be complete, assign Time as the most important factor and plan along that, and set milestones on the way there. If it's a crisis, you have to expect to possibly compromise the budget and the quality. If it is important to stay within budget, then you may have to postpone the launch date.

By making a priority, you can make decisions more easily during the project and decide whether you need to bring in any external assistance.

2. Test environment and backup

The best thing is if you have the opportunity to create a test environment where you build the new website. In this way, you simplify the work of testing and comparing it against the current website. If that is not possible then it is recommended to create a copy of the current website to have a backup.

3. Block new site from indexing

While you are building the new website, it is good to ensure that it is not indexed by search engines, then you run the risk that the new pages will start competing with the current website.

4. Sitemap (list of pages)

It's always a good idea to pull out a list of all active pages from the current site. This is because you can have pages that can not be accessed via the menu that you risk missing during migration.

5. Check content

When it's time to transfer all the content to the new site, remember that it's better to do it properly at one time, even if it takes longer. So be sure to web-customize images, add alt tags, enter metadata, add internal links, web customize texts, yes everything to make the site great both from a UX and SEO perspective.

6. Add Google Analytics

In order not to miss out on your historical data in Google Analytics, it is important that you transfer your GA tracking code to the new site.

7. Activate and review all redirects

Enable and test so that all your 301 redirects work according to plan so you don't miss anything.

8. Make new site indexable so Googlebot can crawl the site

Make sure the new site is indexable for Googlebot, feel free to take a look at the search console's coverage report to detect any misses. Also double-check to make sure your new site is verified in the Search Console.

9. Post-migration monitoring

After the migration is complete, it's important to track how everything looks to work, a tip is to look continuously in the search console to see how indexing is going and identify any 404s or other error messages. Please also keep an extra eye on the loading time. Since you want all your pages to be indexed, it's important to have a fast load time as Googlebot adjusts its crawling speed to the site's speed. It may also be worth reviewing the Site Speed report in Google Analytics to see how users in different devices/browsers experience the site.

10. Monitor indexing of new website

In Google Search Console, you can upload two sitemaps, one with your old URLs and one with your new ones. This allows you to track how the old URLs disappear and the new ones are added to indexing. As you go, only your new URLs will remain.

11. Troubleshooting

After your new website is live, it may be helpful to keep an extra eye on your visitor data for a few months. Often, a migration can cause a drop in traffic and positions in the SERP. But if you feel that you are unable to regain traffic or positions, it may be good to troubleshoot so that something has not gone wrong. If you instead feel that the conversion and user behavior are changing in an unwanted direction, it may be worth considering whether the new site is not user-friendly enough. It is easy to become home blind and in such a situation it may be useful to consider A/B tests and to analyze visitor flows.

It is clearly a comprehensive project to implement a website migration and if you need help with anything you are always welcome to contact me or my colleagues.

Anna Bertilsson
Head of Owned Media

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